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II CORINTHIANS 5:6-8| HOME IS…

June 18, 2018
Posted by Office Staff

HOME IS…

II CORINTHIANS 5:6-8

JUNE 17, 2018

 

I’M GOING TO SAY A WORD, AND I WANT YOU TO THINK ABOUT THE FIRST THING THAT COMES TO MIND.  THE IMAGE, A PICTURE, A WORD, WHATEVER IT IS.

 

NOW, THIS IS NOT A JOKE… I’M NOT GOING TO SURPRISE YOU… I JUST WANT YOU TO BE READY TO THINK ABOUT THE FIRST THING THAT COMES TO MIND… CLOSE YOUR EYES, IF IT HELPS… READY?

 

HOME

 

SO, WHAT CAME TO MIND?  WHAT DID YOU PICTURE?  CAN WE TAKE A MINUTE TO UNPACK THAT?

 

DID YOU SEE THE HOME YOU LIVE IN NOW?  THE HOME IN WHICH YOU GREW UP?  DID YOU PICTURE JUST A GENERIC HOUSE OF SOME SORT?

 

MAYBE IT WASN’T A PLACE AT ALL, MAYBE WHAT YOU PICTURED WAS YOUR FAMILY; OR YOURSELF, AS A CHILD.

 

PERHAPS, SWAYED BY MY BUILD UP, AND BEING IN CHURCH AFTER ALL, SOME OF YOU THOUGHT I MIGHT BE LOOKING FOR A “CHURCHY” ANSWER; A THEOLOGICALLY CORRECT ANSWER – SO WHAT YOU PICTURED WAS HEAVEN, BECAUSE YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO.

 

THERE ARE NO RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWERS, OF COURSE; THERE’S JUST THE ANSWER, THE IMAGE, THE PLACE OR PEOPLE, THE WORD OR WORDS, THAT CAME TO YOUR MIND

 

“HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS.”  “HOME SWEET HOME.”  “THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME.”  “HOME IS WHERE YOU HANG YOUR HAT.”  “E. T. PHONE HOME.”

 

HOME, HOME ON THE RANGE.  OR ON AN ISLAND.  OR IN THE MOUNTAINS.  OR IN HEAVEN.

 

IT IS POSSIBLE, EVEN LIKELY, FOR SOME OF US, THAT THE WORD CONJURED UP ILL FEELINGS; COMPLICATED FEELINGS; OR MIXED FEELINGS, AT BEST.

 

PAUL’S WORDS – THE PASSAGE WE READ A MOMENT AGO – HE WROTE WHILE HE WAS IN PRISON.  HE’S WRITING ABOUT DEATH, AND ETERNAL LIFE.

 

HE’S WRITING ABOUT WHETHER IT IS BETTER TO STAY ALIVE, TO KEEP WORKING, KEEP SERVING, KEEP MINISTERING, OR IF IT’D BE BETTER TO BE IN HEAVEN WITH GOD.

 

“…WHILE WE ARE IN THE BODY WE ARE AWAY FROM THE LORD… YES, WE DO HAVE CONFIDENCE, AND WE WOULD RATHER BE AWAY FROM THE BODY AND AT HOME – AT HOME – WITH THE LORD.”

 

IT IS THE APOSTLE PAUL’S HAMLET-ESQUE SOLILOQUY.

 

WE REMEMBER HAMLET’S WORDS:

 

TO BE, OR NOT TO BE–THAT IS THE QUESTION:
WHETHER ‘TIS NOBLER IN THE MIND TO SUFFER
THE SLINGS AND ARROWS OF OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE
OR TO TAKE ARMS AGAINST A SEA OF TROUBLES
AND BY OPPOSING END THEM. TO DIE, TO SLEEP–
NO MORE–AND BY A SLEEP TO SAY WE END
THE HEARTACHE, AND THE THOUSAND NATURAL SHOCKS
THAT FLESH IS HEIR TO.

 

IF YOU WILL ALLOW ME A MOMENTARY DETOUR, THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF ATTENTION LATELY TO THIS VERY FEELING, WHAT WITH THE SUICIDES OF KATE SPADE AND ANTHONY BOURDAIN.

 

AND THIS WEEK, LOCALLY, WORD THAT SOME YOUNG MAN LIVE-STREAMED HIS SUICIDAL HANGING IN THE GALLEON RESORT PARKING LOT HERE IN KEY WEST.

 

HIGH PROFILE, AND PUBLICIZED SUICIDES SUCH AS THESE, SIMPLY SHED LIGHT ON WHAT IS AN EVERYDAY AND EPIDEMIC PROBLEM IN OUR SOCIETY.

 

THE CDC REPORTS THAT SUICIDES ARE UP 30% SINCE 1999.  GOVERNMENT FIGURES SUGGEST 22 VETERANS A DAY TAKE THEIR LIVES.

 

THERE ARE ROUGHLY 45,000 DEATHS BY SUICIDE IN THE UNITED STATES EACH YEAR, AND STATISTICS SUGGEST, SOME 3 TO 5 TIMES THAT MANY ATTEMPTS.

 

IT IS THE TENTH LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH, AND MUCH HIGHER THAN THAT AMONG CERTAIN AGE GROUPS.

 

I ONCE SERVED AS THE DIRECTOR AND CEO OF A NON-PROFIT CRISIS HOTLINE AND COUNSELING SERVICE, WHERE WE DEALT WITH SUICIDE CALLS NEARLY EVERY DAY.

 

I HAVE HAD PARISHIONERS COMMIT SUICIDE AND WORKED WITH FAMILIES WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED THESE TRAGIC LOSSES IN THEIR LIVES.

PLEASE, IF YOU, OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW, IS CONTEMPLATING SUICIDE, GET THE HELP YOU NEED; THE HELP YOU DESERVE.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE; PEOPLE DO CARE; AND THEY WANT TO HELP.

 

THE CHURCH IS HERE FOR YOU.  IF NOTHING ELSE, CALL 1-800-SUICIDE AND TALK TO SOMEONE.

 

FOR NOW, HOWEVER, I WANT TO GO BACK TO WHAT WE WERE SAYING ABOUT HOME.

 

THERE IS, IN ALL OF US I BELIEVE, A LONGING FOR HOME, WHATEVER THAT MEANS TO US.

 

THE HOME WE HAVE.  THE HOME WE GREW UP IN.  THE HOME WE ARE GOING TO.  AN IDEAL HOME.  AN ETERNAL HOME.

 

HOME IS HERE AND THERE; THEN AND NOW; AND IN THE FUTURE; HOME IS TEMPORAL AND ETERNAL.

 

LAST SUNDAY, WHEN WE WERE WELCOMING THE KIRKPATRICK FAMILY INTO MEMBERSHIP IN THE CHURCH, AND BAPTIZING SOME OF THEIR CHILDREN INTO THE FAITH, I SPOKE, AND PRAYED ABOUT CHRIST BEING AT THE CENTER OF THEIR HOME; OF THEIR LIFE TOGETHER;

 

AND OUR LIFE WITH THEM AS THE FAMILY OF GOD.  OUR CHURCH HOME.

 

HAVING NO IDEA WHATSOEVER WHAT I WOULD BE PREACHING ON THIS SUNDAY, THIS PAST WEEK MY BROTHER SENT ME A PICTURE OF THE HOME IN WHICH WE GREW UP.

 

AND THERE, WITH A SINGLE PICTURE, ALL THAT HISTORY AND FEELING AND EMOTION CAME FLOODING BACK.

 

THINKING OF MY PARENTS THERE.  MY BROTHER AND SISTER.  OUR LIFE TOGETHER.

 

AND IT HAD RAINED JUST BEFORE MY BROTHER TOOK THE PICTURE;

 

LIKE IT DOES IN CENTRAL FLORIDA – EVERY DAYHARD, BUT ONLY FOR A FEW MINUTES; AND I REMEMBERED HOW WE USED TO SAIL HOMEMADE BOATS DOWN THE STREET IN THE RUSHING WATERS OF THE GUTTERS BY THE CURB.

 

HOME IS… ALL THE THINGS WE PICTURE, AND MORE; AND FOR SOME OF US, LESS…

 

IT IS ALL OF THOSE CATCHPHRASES WE QUOTED EARLIER…

IT IS, FOR US AS BELIEVERS, IN PART OR IN WHOLE, WHEREVER CHRIST IS.

 

THE FAMOUS PREACHER, AND LATER, SEMINARY PROFESSOR, GEORGE BUTTRICK WHO SERVED THE MADISON AVENUE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN NEW YORK CITY FOR 28 YEARS, FROM 1927-1955 ONCE SAID:

 

“AS I WAS LEAVING CHURCH ONE SUNDAY (IT BEING BUT A FEW WEEKS UNTIL   CHRISTMAS) HEADED HOME TO THE APARTMENT WHERE I LIVE, I HAPPENED TO OVERHEAR SOMEBODY OUT ON THE STEPS ASKING SOMEBODY ELSE:

 

‘ARE YOU GOING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS?’”

 

THE FOLLOWING SUNDAY BUTTRICK STOOD IN THE PULPIT, HIS GLASSES GLITTERING IN THE LECTERN LIGHT AS HE PEERED OUT AT ALL THOSE LISTENING TO HIM IN THAT LARGE, DIM SANCTUARY AND HE ASKED IT AGAIN –

“ARE YOU GOING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS?”

 

HE ASKED IT IN SUCH A WAY AS TO BRING TEARS TO PEOPLE’S EYES, AND IN A WAY THAT MADE IT ALMOST UNNECESSARY FOR HIM TO MOVE ON TO HIS ANSWER TO THE QUESTION;

 

WHICH WAS, THAT HOME, FINALLY, IS THE MANGER IN BETHLEHEM, THE PLACE WHERE AT MIDNIGHT, EVEN THE OXEN KNEEL.

 

HOME IS WHERE CHRIST IS… WAS WHAT BUTTRICK SAID THAT WINTER MORNING…

 

AND, PERHAPS, FOR US, HERE, EVEN IN THE MIDST OF JUNE’S HEAT, ON FATHER’S DAY, OF ALL DAYS, IT IS STILL THE ANSWER.

 

HOME IS WHERE CHRIST IS… AND WHERE CHRIST IS – IS WITH US, AND WITHIN US.

 

PAUL, SITTING IN PRISON, WRITING TO THE CORINTHIANS, WRESTLES WITH THE QUESTION OF WHETHER, FOR HIM, FOR ANY OF US, IT IS BETTER TO LIVE IN THIS BODY AND AWAY FROM THE LORD, OR BETTER TO BE OUT OF THIS BODY, AND AT HOME WITH THE LORD.

 

DON’T THINK FOR A MOMENT, THAT THESE SORTS OF THOUGHTS DON’T RUN THROUGH THE MINDS OF THOSE CONTEMPLATING TAKING THEIR LIVES; THEY DO, AND THE STRUGGLE IS VERY REAL.

 

AND GOD’S HEART IS THE FIRST OF ALL HEARTS TO BREAK WHEN SOMEONE LOSES THEIR LIFE.

 

FOR US, HERE THIS MORNING, LIFE GOES ON.

WE MAKE OUR HOMES, WHEREVER THEY MAY BE; WITHIN OURSELVES, AND WITH OTHERS, AND STILL WE LONG FOR HOME, NONETHELESS.

 

WE LONG FOR THE PERFECT HOME.  WE LONG FOR THE HOME WE NEVER HAD.  WE LONG FOR THE HOME WE WISH WE HAD.

 

WE LONG FOR THE HOME WE HAD, BUT NO LONGER HAVE, DUE TO THE LOSS OF LOVED ONES, OR THE LOSS OF LOVE.

 

AND, AT SOME POINT OR ANOTHER, WE LIKELY LONG FOR THAT ETERNAL HOME IN THE HEAVENS, OR HOWEVER IT IS WE PICTURE IT, OF WHICH WE’VE HEARD TELL, AND BEEN PROMISED.

 

“COME TO ME, ALL YOU WHO LABOR AND ARE HEAVY LADEN, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST.”  JESUS SAYS.

 

BECAUSE WE HAVE GROWN SO ACCUSTOMED TO READING THAT PASSAGE, TO HEARING THOSE WORDS ONLY AT FUNERALS, WE IMMEDIATELY JUMP TO THE IDEA OF GOD’S ETERNAL HOME; AND OUR FINAL RESTING PLACE.

 

AND IT IS THAT, TO BE SURE, BUT LOOK AT JESUS’ OTHER WORDS HERE, IN MATTHEW 11:28 AND FOLLOWING:

 

“COME TO ME, ALL YOU WHO LABOR AND ARE HEAVY LADEN, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST.  TAKE MY YOKE UPON YOU AND LEARN FROM ME; FOR I AM GENTLE AND HUMBLE IN HEART, AND YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.  FOR MY YOKE IS EASY, AND MY BURDEN IS LIGHT.”

 

THAT “YOKE” PART IS IN COMPARISON TO AN OXEN YOKE, OR A PAIR OF OXEN WORKING A FIELD – AT WORK!

 

JESUS IS NOT SIMPLY CALLING US TO, PROMISING US, AN ETERNAL RESTING PLACE WITH HIM WHEN WE DIE;

 

HE IS CALLING US TO REST IN HIM NOW, TO WORK FOR HIM NOW, TO LIVE IN HIM NOW, TO BE AT HOME IN HIM NOW, IN THIS LIFE AND FOR ALWAYS.

 

JESUS IS INVITING US TO LEARN FROM HIM – AND BE LIKE HIM, TO BE “GENTLE AND HUMBLE IN HEART.”

 

TO BE AT HOME WITH HIM, IN HIM, AND HE IN US, HERE AND NOW, AND FOREVER.

 

FOR AS LONG AS WE LIVE, I SUPPOSE, WE WILL ALWAYS BE TORN BETWEEN THIS LIFE AND THE NEXT; THIS WORLD AND THE NEXT; OUR HOME HERE AND OUR FOREVER HOME.

TWICE AFTER HURRICANE KATRINA, KAREN AND I WERE IN NEW ORLEANS.

 

ONCE, SHORTLY AFTER, WHEN WE GOT TO SEE THE TERRIBLE DEVASTATION AND THE FIRST SEVERAL MONTHS OF RECOVERY;

 

AND AGAIN, A YEAR OR SO LATER, WHEN THERE WAS STILL A LOT GOING ON, INCLUDING THE PLOWING DOWN OF ENTIRE SHOPPING MALLS AND NEIGHBORHOODS THAT HAD BEEN RUINED BY THE STORM.

 

DURING OUR SECOND VISIT WE ATTENDED AN IMAX FILM ON WHICH THE AUDUBON SOCIETY HAD BEGUN PRODUCTION BEFORE KATRINA, ABOUT WHAT THE LOSS OF THE WETLANDS OFF OF LOUISIANA WOULD MEAN TO BOTH HUMANS AND WILDLIFE IN THE NEXT BIG STORM.

 

KATRINA, IT TURNED OUT, WAS THAT NEXT BIG STORM, AND THE MOVIEMAKERS WERE THEN ABLE TO INCORPORATE INTO THE COMPLETED FILM, THE DEVASTATION OF KATRINA, PROVING THE VERY POINT THEY HAD SET OUT TO MAKE.

 

THE FILM, HURRICANE ON THE BAYOU, FEATURED SOME OF LOUISIANA’S BEST KNOWN AND MOST LOVED MUSICIANS, AS WELL AS SOME UP AND COMING FUTURE STARS;

 

BUT WHAT THEY ALL HAD IN COMMON WAS A DEEP LOVE FOR NEW ORLEANS, AND FOR LOUISIANA; FOR THEIR HOME.

 

AS PART OF THE MOVIE SOUNDTRACK FOR THAT FILM THERE IS A SONG BY STEVE WOOD ENTITLED “THIS IS MY HOME”.

 

IN A WAY, IT IS A COUNTERPOINT TO THE MANY CHRISTIANS HYMNS THAT HAVE BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT THIS IS NOT OUR TRUE HOME – HEAVEN IS – AND I GET THAT;

 

BUT I ALSO GET WHAT STEVE WOOD IS GETTING AT IN THIS SONG I AM ABOUT TO PLAY FOR YOU; AND WHAT THOSE LOUISIANA MUSICIANS WERE GETTING AT ABOUT THEIR BELOVED HOME;

 

AND THE STRUGGLE I’VE TRIED TO DESCRIBE IN THIS MORNING’S SERMON, WHEN:

 

FOR US, WE HAVE MORE THAN ONE HOME: TEMPORAL AND ETERNAL; HERE AND THERE; NOW AND FOREVER…

 

SOMETHING I THINK THIS HAUNTING YET BEAUTIFUL SONG CAPTURES SO WELL.

 

I HOPE YOU’LL LISTEN – THIS IS MY HOME – BY STEVE WOOD.

 

 

 

 

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